If I feel like making and eating lasagna, this is the recipe I usually reach for. The red sauce is loaded with roasted sweet peppers and is layered between no-boil lasagna noodles along with a béchamel sauce and Parmesan cheese. If you want to make the dish a bit more substantial, add some spicy Italian sausage.
I will normally roast my own peppers, blistering and blackening them under the flames of my gas oven's broiler, but recently I've purchased jars of roasted peppers where the work has already been done for me. When peppers are plentiful and cheap it makes sense to roast my own, but when they're running $2 to $3 each, I'm not spending any more for the roasted peppers in a jar; so why not? Saving time... a gift to myself.
The thin no-boil lasagna noodles also help this lasagna go together quickly and nicely complement the delicate béchamel sauce.
adapted from a recipe found in Country Home Magazine
• 4 medium red sweet peppers, or two 7-ounce jars roasted red sweet peppers
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 8 ounces sweet or hot bulk Italian sausage, browned and drained (optional)
• 1/3 cup butter
• 1/3 cup flour
• 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 cups whole milk
• 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
• 1 1/4 cups finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1. For red pepper sauce, halve sweet peppers; remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Place peppers, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until skin is bubbly and blackened. Wrap peppers in foil; let stand 20 minutes. Peel skins from peppers and cut peppers into thin strips. (Or, if using bottled roasted red peppers, drain and cut into thin strips.)
2. In a large saucepan cook pepper strips in hot olive oil over medium heat one minute. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, basil, garlic, black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring often. Cool. Stir in cooked sausage, if using.
3. For béchamel sauce, in a medium saucepan melt butter. Stir in flour, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt until smooth. Add milk. Cook and stir until thickened. Set aside to cool.
4. Grease the bottom of a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Cover bottom of dish with 3 lasagna noodles. Spread about 1 cup of the red pepper sauce over the pasta. Top with 3/4 cup of the béchamel sauce, spreading evenly; sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese over the sauce. Repeat for 3 more layers. The final layer of noodles should be completely covered by sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake, uncovered, in a 350˚F oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until light brown on top. Let stand 20 minutes before cutting.
To Make Ahead: Assemble lasagna as directed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To bake, remove plastic wrap and cover with foil. Bake in a preheated 350˚F oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake an additional 15 to 25 minutes, or until bubbly.